Abstract: This study examines the rise of the Babi movement in its first phase (1844-47), the formative period which has been less fully explored than later phases (1847-52) but deserves a thorough critical examination. An attempt has been made to explain the complex relationship between the intellectual and social aspects of the movement; ideas, events and personalities are seen in a wide historical perspective, and the early impact of the movement on 'ulama, tujjār and other groups in Iranian urban society, and the reactions it evoked from them, are examined.
The first two chapters deal with the intellectual and social climate of Iran in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, with particular attention to the development of millenarian ideas. Chapters III and IV are concerned with the process which eventually gave birth to the movement. The early life of Sayyid 'Alī Muhammad, the Bab, his family background and personal characteristics are discussed in some detail, so as to show the external influences and inner experiences which finally brought him to proclaim a new 'revelation' in 1844. The conflicts and confusions within the Shaykhi ranks, which served as a stimulus to the conversion of those Shaykhi students who formed the first Babi nucleus in Shiraz, are examined; so too the traditional Shi'i ideas and their similarities and differences with the new doctrine.
Chapters Five to Seven study the earliest Babi attempts in the 'Atabāt and Iran to spread the new message to specific groups, and to a wider public in general, and the opposition first of the religious authorities and then of the secular power. Chapter Eight is a case-study of the growth of the early Babi community in Khurasan, within the context of socio-political change, the pattern of the local economy, and inter-communal links in the small rural and urban centres. Chapter Nine, finally, looks at the Bab's own efforts to declare his mission to a wider public; however circumstances forced him to reinterpret the mission in a symbolic way, and for the first time the enormous practical problems which faced the expansion of the movement were realised.